Developing a Water Use Plan for the Cowichan Watershed

The Cowichan Valley Regional District (CVRD), Cowichan Tribes, the Cowichan Watershed Board, and Catalyst Paper have partnered together to initiate a community planning process that will explore future water use needs alongside a range of different potential water supply and storage options. The goal is to seek agreement on a long-term solution to better ensure water resources are sustainable and available to meet the region’s future water use requirements.

The current Cowichan water management system and weir – implemented and constructed in the 1950s – no longer has the capability to reliably support the varied water uses that have come to be expected in the region. Three out of the last fourAverage lake inflow 33% summers have been droughts; in 2016, lake levels were so low in September that pumps were installed with the anticipation of pumping lake water to increase flows to the river. These events will be much more common in the future!

Climate change is the key driver that has resulted in a third less water coming into Cowichan Lake since the 1960s. This drying trend is only expected to worsen in coming years with longer drier summers (with about 17% less rain in the summers and 85% decrease in snowpack depth by the 2050s) and warmer water temperatures.

To ensure a Water Use Plan is reflective of the diverse interests and priorities of the residents and businesses of the region, a public advisory group (PAG) will be formed to work collaboratively through a structured process towards recommending a balanced long term solution to meet the community’s water use needs into the future. The PAG will be made up of a diverse and representative range of water interests.

The costs for the community planning process have been made through a grant from the Canada and BC Clean Water and Wastewater Program with additional funding provided by Catalyst Paper.